How To *Actually* Make Affirmations Work For You

It takes some effort.

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Affirmations have gone mainstream, and as a certified life coach who is all about empowerment, I'm here for it. In years past, you'd only hear about affirmations in self-help circles, and now they're everywhere. In fact, the queen of good vibes herself, Lizzo, recently took to Instagram to discuss the body-positive affirmations that work in helping her feel confident every day. Clearly, this wellness practice has legs. But how does it work exactly?

"Positive affirmations are simple phrases or statements that help you build confidence and help you challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts," says Judy Ho, Ph.D., a licensed and triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist. Despite their rise in popularity, still, for some people, reciting positive affirmations doesn't seem to deliver on the promised boost of self-esteem. If this is the case for you, don't rule them out just yet. According to experts, all you need to do is make a few tweaks on how you're using affirmations. Given the benefits (more on that below), it's definitely worth putting in the extra effort.

"Self-affirmations help us to adapt to the world better," Ho says. "Even as the world changes, you can use self-affirmations to motivate yourself, challenge yourself, and cheer yourself on to rise to whatever the occasion requires." Reese Evans, a mindset and abundance coach, adds that affirmations can also help individuals overcome self-sabotage and negative talk, strengthen their sense of self-worth, and cultivate more awareness of the positive things that are already happening in our lives, which in turn opens one up to opportunities they may have previously closed off.

Ready to level up your affirmations game? Keep reading for five pro tips on how to maximize the power of affirmations and actually get them to work for you.


How To Utilize Affirmations: Make The Words Realistic

One reason affirmations don't always seem to click for some people is that they're too far outside of their realm of reality. "A lot of times, people go way overboard with self-affirmations, and they repeat mantras that they really can't believe in because they are so extraordinarily positive that their brain won't accept them and will naturally be skeptical and try to argue against them," Ho says. The solution: Make your affirmation more grounded. For example, instead of "I can do anything," Ho recommends something like, "I will take one hour today to work towards a big goal."

How To Utilize Affirmations: Focus On The Process

Even if you practice affirmations until you're blue in the face, some things in life are beyond your control. That's why Ho advises focusing affirmations on the process versus a specific outcome. For instance, instead of "I will get that dream job in two weeks," a more effective mantra would be: "I can take active steps every day towards getting my dream job."

How To Utilize Affirmations: Compliment Yourself

According to Ho, brains respond positively to compliments, even if they're ones you give yourself. She recommends using affirmations to shower yourself with kind words when you've done something well or put in effort towards something. An affirmation like "I am so proud of myself for being honest during that difficult conversation" can go a long way.

How To Utilize Affirmations: Get Your Senses Involved

Another hack for supercharging your affirmations: Engage your senses. "The subconscious mind can't tell the difference between real and imagined," Evans says. As you're affirming, she recommends imagining what you will see, hear, and feel once you have the things you're affirming, which makes the affirmation feel more real and attainable.

How To Utilize Affirmations: Dig A Little Deeper

If you're saying an affirmation and it’s difficult to believe it, before you change the words to make them feel more authentic and realistic, Evans suggests viewing it as an opportunity to do some inner work. Her advice: Ask yourself why you find the statement difficult to believe about yourself or your life. Is there a limiting belief there that you may have picked up from a parent or your environment? Do some exploration. To help shift these limiting beliefs, Evans recommends looking up YouTube videos on EFT (emotional freedom technique), also known as tapping, which is a healing modality that works with the body's meridian points to shift stagnant energy in the body.

Now that you know the secret sauce to making affirmations effective, put them to work to help you cultivate more confidence, stop negative self-talk in its tracks, and add some pep to your step. In case you need some inspo to get you started, here’s 22 positive self-affirmations to say when you’re stressed.

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